Sign In:

×

Last Step!

Please enter your public display name and a secure password.

Plan to post in the forums? Change your default forum handle here!

×
×

Skiing… at a Communist Pioneer Camp in Kazakhstan?

Back in the Soviet times, pioneer camps were known to be a place for kids to have summer camps, as well as a forum for pushing socialism ideals. But can you find powder at a winter pioneer camp? Apparently you can, as long as you are ready to ride the death trap lifts. And pay your lift rides with vodka.

Seriously though, the camp experience was quite good. Kind of like your local ski hill, except smaller, and with weird lifts. And you won't find big crowds or immediately tracked powder. It is fresh, small, and full of forests. And the skiing costs nothing, a few euros for a group of people to go skiing. If you want to go further, sometimes you can pay the nearby private lift operator in vodka bottles to let you use their lift as well.

But why are we doing this, where are we, and why on earth would we look for pioneer camps? Tero, Jarmo, and I were skiing in Kazakhstan, when all of a sudden the big, touristy ski area announced they are closing. Apparently, the Russian prime minister Medvedev was coming in for a visit, and he wanted to go skiing. So the area closed due to "avalanche control work". More communism experiences there :-)

Oh well. Jarmo had dug out information about local ski hills, and he knew there were a couple of other small ones near Almaty. We had also hooked up with Viktor, a local skier who had guided us to good spots beyond the slopes. He kindly offered to come along to help us find these places. And without him, we could not have even begun negotiations with our driver, let alone demanded the off-road car that we ended up needing or know where to go.

So we headed to Pioneer and Elik-Sai, both south of Almaty and near each other. And we found pow, trees, local culture, and different skiing. All we wanted!

The only downsides to these small places are access and the lifts. First off, getting to the sites is tricky. We had an off-road truck, but even it had trouble getting to the places these ski areas were at, given the snowy road conditions. Steep hills to climb up, we didn't at first manage get up on the roads. And coming down, there were some scary slides and I was worried we'd end up in a ravine somewhere. But we made it through.

But then the lifts. At Pioneer, the lift is actually quite good, a regular anchor lift. But at the top there were some additional, private-use lifts. Had their operators been there on the day, we would have had to dug up some vodka somewhere to pay for our way. Unfortunately, there were not there on a weekday...

Of course, we climbed some ways to experience the foot or two powder that was covering the mountains and forests. It was very nice!

However, at Elik-Sai, it was a different setup. The lifts were basically cable loops running around car tires. And there was no anchors use or handles to hold on to. Just wire.

For 4€ for our team we got to ski here for half a day, and we hooks that we had to carry in our back (or around our necks Tero has below):

These hooks were attached to a cord and a metallic small hook, see below. This hook we had to slash onto the lift's cable at the right moment, and then twist, so that it would not slide. And off we went. Even the owner, who proudly demonstrated the ski hill, fell down on the first attempt. Scary as hell.

It was also interesting how some of these places are marketed. The sign for Elik-Sai promised bikini skiers and sunshine... reality was quite different:

And here are some more pictures from Pioneer:

The vodka-ticket lifts:

Powder at Pioneer:

Some signs:

Pioneer slope and lift:

And here are more pictures from Elik-Sai:

Viktor:

Travel... gates on the road towards Pioneer:

This blog is also available at Blogspot. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. Photos and videos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko, Jarmo Ruuth, and Tero Kivinen. All rights reserved.

Play
READ THE STORY
The Brotherhood Escort Is A Haunting Reminder Of the Power of the Mountains
Up Next Snowboard

The Brotherhood Escort Is A Haunting Reminder Of the Power of the Mountains

The Brotherhood Escort Is A Haunting Reminder Of the Power of the Mountains

Different things drive us into the mountains. For some, it’s a desire to escape. For others, it’s a desire to explore and push the limits. For some though, it’s about connecting with themselves in a way nothing else can provide. For two Navy SEALs, an attempt to traverse the entirety of Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Range was a moment of reflection and connection with two fallen friends. RELATED: First Descents in Chamonix Are As Gnarly As They Come After losing countless best friends in

Play
READ THE STORY
VIDEO: Henry Sildaru Chases Candide Thovex in This is Home
Up Next Ski

VIDEO: Henry Sildaru Chases Candide Thovex in This is Home

VIDEO: Henry Sildaru Chases Candide Thovex in This is Home

Remember that grom segment from Faction’s The one where a little tiny Henry Sildaru chases none other than Candide Thovex around La Clusaz? Yeah, it’s probably one of the rowdiest grom segments ever shot and Faction just re-released the whole seggy online for you to watch. RELATED: Henry Sildaru Chases Antti Ollila Around Ruka, Finland Until Candide actually joins the fray at 0:33, it’s pretty hard to tell that you’re watching Sildaru spin and butter natural features with the style of his

Play
READ THE STORY
Aiguille Du Midi Tram Installs Infrared Cameras To Screen For COVID-19
Up Next Ski

Aiguille Du Midi Tram Installs Infrared Cameras To Screen For COVID-19

Aiguille Du Midi Tram Installs Infrared Cameras To Screen For COVID-19

After a two-month shutdown during the peak of spring ski season, Chamonix’s Aiguille du Midi tram re-opened this past weekend, much to the excitement of local skiers and climbers looking to get deep into the Mont Blanc Massif. While Tof Henry and co. shredding big lines might have taken the first headlines, there was some other news beneath the surface that is worth talking about. In order to screen guests on the Telepherique, the infamous tram that rises over 9000 feet from the valley